Making Right and Left Turns

Take a look at the distinction between right and left turns.

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Check Out Our Visuals to Help You Understand

The graphic below shows that some states (e.g., Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina) prohibit entering the right lane when making the left turn.

Turns diagram


Some states are less strict and allow drivers to complete a left turn into either lane of the cross street as shown below, e.g., California, Missouri, Texas. Consult your state's Drivers handbook for details.

Turn diagram California


The next graphic shows which lanes are used by cars turning from a two-way street onto a one-way street and from a one-way street to a two-way street. After coming to a complete stop, you may make a turn onto a one-way street from another two-way street (unless otherwise indicated).

No turns diagram


Here is an example of making turns in California and Texas. Notice that the driver may complete the turn in any lane open to traffic if it is safe to do so as shown by arrows below.

One way diagram

Quick Re-Cap

Right Turn against a Red Light: Signal and stop for a red traffic light before the stop line (or limit line), if there is one, or before entering the intersection. If there is no sign that prohibits a right turn on the red light, you may turn right. Be careful that you do not interfere with pedestrians, bicyclists, or vehicles moving on their green light. Note: that a right turn on a red light is prohibited by law in New York City.

Right Turn:

  • As you prepare to turn, reduce speed and stay as far to the right as possible. Begin the turn in the lane nearest to the right-hand curb and end the turn in the lane nearest the right-hand curb.
  • Give turn signal.
  • Yield to pedestrians who may be crossing your path. Scan for any bicyclist in your path.
  • Avoid making wide, sweeping turns in the other lane.

Left Turn:

  • Turn on the left turn signal before you make the turn and slow down.
  • Look both ways and make sure that the oncoming lanes are clear.
  • Make the turn from the designated lane (use left lane).
  • Do not enter into the right lane. In some states, it is illegal to enter the right lane after the turn is completed.